Impeachment Hearings: Examining the Role of Witnesses

Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Lt Colonel Vindman testifies during the impeachment hearings.

Lt Colonel Vindman testifies during the impeachment hearings.

Impeachment Hearings: Day Three

Tuesday marked a significant day in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, as officials on the July 25th phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy testified in open hearings for the first time. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and the State Dept.’s Jennifer Williams both testified that they were present on the phone call. “What I heard was inappropriate,” according to Vindman, adding that, “It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent.

“I thought that the references to specific individuals and investigations, such as former Vice President Biden and his son, struck me as political in nature, given that the former vice president is a political opponent of the president,” Williams said.

Republicans called two witnesses later in the day, Ambassador Kurt Volker, the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine until his resignation on Sept. 27, 2019, and Tim Morrison, former senior director for Russia and Europe on the National Security Council.

Watch the video below and answer the questions. You can turn on the “CC” (closed-captions) function and read along with the transcript here.

  • Teacher’s note: For time’s sake, we recommend watching the start of the segment to 7m:25s to hear from Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams. Then watch 16m:30s to 21m:15s to hear from Ambassador Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison.
  • Impeachment hearing activity: You may want to have your students complete the impeachment hearing activity (PDF here) which can be applied to any lawmaker, Democrat or Republican, and to any witness.



Volker changed his original testimony to say that, “I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company, ‘Burisma’ as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden,” adding that, “I saw them as very different. The former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable.”

Morrison said he did not see anything inappropriate with the July 25 phone call but did report the conversation to a State Dept. lawyer, something he had not done prior in his career.


Jennifer Williams testifies during the impeachment hearings

Jennifer Williams testifies during the impeachment hearings

Impeachment Hearings: Discussion Questions

  1. Essential question: What is the most persuasive point you heard supporting the positions of Democrats and Republicans?

  2. Why do you think Lt. Col. Vindman discussed his family background, particularly his father?

  3. Do you think the attacks by Republicans on Vindman were warranted? Explain.

  4. Why did you hear so much discussion of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company?

  5. Did you find Vindman and Williams’ testimonies compelling? How about Volker and Morrison’s testimonies? Explain.

  6. Do you think the Democrats and Republicans got what they wanted out of their witnesses? Explain.

  7. What would you say the overall tone was in the hearing room?

  8. Media literacy: Check out at least three additional news sites about Day 3 of the impeachment hearings. How is the coverage similar and different to the PBS NewsHour’s story?

Impeachment Hearings: Extension Activity

Catch up on Day 2 of the impeachment hearings: Yovanovitch describes weakened State Department, questions ‘smear’ campaign

This article was originally posted by PBS NewsHour Extra and can be found here.